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Emotion vocabulary—what do you feel? How do you name it? – Jeanne Hehlen Ms, LMHC, MHP


Children experience a variety of emotions, but when they are young, they usually don’t know how to name them or express them appropriately. As we begin to teach about emotions, we often show only three at the beginning: mad, sad, glad. These clearly don’t cover them all, and is only a start. So, how can you help them expand their emotional vocabulary?

Feeling charts can be helpful to show there are many emotions and we can name them. Kids may not be able to read the work or name the different ones, but they often can relate to the various examples and expressions. After all, they are experts at reading us, and able to get us to respond in certain ways, not always for the good. I prefer to use a chart that has people (cartoon or photo) showing emotions over the ‘circle face’ kind. This is more realistic and matches what they already see. With practice, the circle-face emotions can be helpful, once you know what to change or arrange to show the differences (mouth, eyebrows). You can make a game of making faces in a mirror to match the emotions on the chart—to see what it looks like on you and on themselves. It is important to show children that more than one emotion can be experienced simultaneously. I use some drawing techniques to illustrate this concept. The Disney movie “Inside Out” is a great example of showing the different emotions that people have, and they show combined emotions. Teaching about the different emotions, labeling the emotions, and how the emotions fit into interactions gives people the power to express themselves effectively and learn social skills.

Janelle Adams, MA, LMFT, ATR Janelle Adams, MA, LMFT, ATR, offers her extensive expertise to help people of all ages from all walks of life to lead happy, balanced lives. Through her work at In Touch Counseling Services in Vancouver, Washington, she delivers care and treatment designed to address mental health disorders, relationship challenges, physical health problems, and more. Janelle takes a holistic, integrative approach with each person she sees at In Touch Counseling Services. She knows that each individual’s experiences and difficulties are unique. She blends a variety of treatments — including ancient treatments like acupuncture and leading-edge approaches like Alpha-Stim® cranial electrotherapy stimulation — based on the individual’s specific needs and preferences. As a registered art therapist (ATR) and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT), Janelle can draw on her extensive experience to help each patient.

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